The Q&A Archives: Layer a Butternut Tree Shoot

Question: We have a shoot growing from the lower trunk area of our butternut tree. I would like to try to start a new tree from this if it's possible. If so, how do I go about attempting this?

Answer: The lower trunk area of the tree is generally juvenile wood which is good news if you wish to propagate it. Mature wood (found in the upper portions of the tree) is very difficult to root.

I would suggest you remove an inch wide ring of bark from the shoot. Then dust the wound surface lightly with a rooting hormone (available at most garden centers). Next wrap a wad of moist spaghnum moss (as large as your two fists held together) around the shoot at the place where you removed the bark. Cover the moss with a plastic wrap (a bread wrapper works fine for this) and place twist ties around the plastic above and below the moss to hold everything in place. Finally wrap foil around the plastic and moss to reflect heat.

Check the moss weekly and moisten it if it begins to get dry. By fall roots should have begun to form in the moss. Protect this area from an early freeze as the new roots and callous tissue are cold tender. When the leaves are off the shoot in fall, cut it off below the root zone and remove the foil, plastic and twist ties. Pot it up or plant it out in the yard and water it in well. Next spring it should be established and ready to take off and grow.

Good luck with your tree!

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